Battlegroup Niffleheim: Abode of The Dead

If I go back a few years, I was writing a few articles for the now-defunct Crikey. And I was fortunate to begin to chat to some of the longer serving members of staff of D C Thomson. One of them was the long serving Bill Graham. Bill had worked on so many comics, it was jaw-dropping for me to look at the list, which Jeremy Briggs unearthed during his interview with Bill Graham.

However, Bill worked on one of the comics that was a definitive influence for me. And that comic was Warlord. And out of all the stories that I enjoyed in Warlord, the one that still stands out head and shoulders above all the rest is the one that was originally pitched as the title of this post by the late great Alan Hemus who had penned this wonderful tale. However Bill had a definite hand in the genesis of what I still consider to be the best story arc of Warlord. And he suggested a name change which took it from the hard to pronounce title which is shown above to the snappier…well that would be telling. When the story was first published, it was in the midst of the Russian campaign with a Wermacht punishment battalion commanded by a certain Heinz Falken. For those that have read Warlord, you know what the story was called when it was published and I ask any of you fellow Warlord readers to name me a better story.

Kampfgruppe Falken first page

This story almost never got off the ground as the original pitch had to face two World War Two veterans who could not accept the fact that some stories could feature the German Armed Forces in a sympathetic manner. And this was before the first issue of Warlord had even been published! It would have been interesting to have seen the direction that British comics may have taken if Bill had been successful as he would have scooped Dave Hunt, Pat Mills, Gerry Finley-Day et al in getting the first World War II German character published in British comics. I think that Battle, Action and 2000AD would have been very different beasts if Bill Graham had succeeded in getting Battlegroup Niffleheim through the selection process. We have to remember that Warlord was one of the first dominoes in the changing of the guard that led to 2000AD being created and published, so anything that would have affected Warlord would have affected 2000AD and our perception of it.

However, Bill persevered and galvanised by the fact that the opposition…er I mean Fleetway had scooped him by getting Panzer G-Man and Hellman of Hammer Force published, he wanted a story that also gave a sympathetic view of life on the German side.

Iron Annie first page

And when you look at Iron Annie, Big Willi, The Shark and Kampgruffe Falken, you can see that Bill succeeded by a mile of providing stories that presented a sympathetic view of the German side. The artists that D C Thomson employed to draw these stories almost guaranteed that these would be successful. We had Mike Dorey on Iron Annie, Alberto César Salinas on Big Willi, Denis McLoughlin on The Shark and Luis Collado Coch on Kampgruffe Falken. If anyone thinks that DC and Marvel could provide decent competition to these stories, then I will laugh at that idea as the majority of DC / Marvel artists do not measure up to this fantastic four.

The Shark first page

As for imagery, I am just giving you a taster of each story as I will delve into them in more depth in later articles. Until then, enjoy what we have on view here.

Big Willi first page

I would have had more to add to this post, but I found an Ian Kennedy illustrated story called Blitzkrieg Bomber which told the story of how Kurt Stahlmann built up his crew during the Blitzkrieg. One of these days, I will manage to research one of my posts without ending up reading half the comics I pull out!

Again, all imagery in this post is (c) D C Thomson

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